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These ideas won't make the cut

Clearwater City leaders have made clear that they anticipate significant budget cuts in 2007-08 and are seeking advice. But the City Council has already made clear there are some things they just won't do.

By MIKE DONILA
Published May 9, 2007


PAY RAISES

Recommendation: Limit pay raises to 3 percent.

Council: Some union contracts prevent this and it also hurts Clearwater's ability to recruit.

HEALTH INSURANCE

Recommendation: Freeze or cap the city's contribution to health insurance and consider a co-pay program.

Council: Some union contracts also prevents this. And it would hamper recruitment, the city adds.

Spending

Recommendation: Cap increased spending on operations to inflation plus 1 percent.

Council: Each year brings its own challenges, like the BeachWalk initiative, and a cap would remove flexibility and hamstring future councils.

BUYOUTS

Recommendation: Consider buyouts for those eligible for retirement.

Council: Officials say it would take a "pretty significant" plan to encourage employees to leave, but would consider buyouts to jobs targeted for cuts.

TAKE-HOME VEHICLES

Recommendation: Limit take-home vehicles to those who live inside the county and do not use them as perks.

Council: City would lose another recruiting tool, but may create a 20-mile take-home radius.

STAFFING

Recommendation: Review the management-to-staff ratio in departments, particularly for fire where task force members felt the ratio is inconsistent to nearby cities.

Council: Reviews are done annually, and the city says fire "falls somewhere in the middle" compared to other cities.

FIREFIGHTING

Recommendation: Create a volunteer firefighting program at certain stations.

Council: The city says training costs would offset any major savings and that Clearwater is "beyond the point of having" a volunteer fire department. Also, the city says it wants firefighters "trained at the highest level."